HOPES of bringing a cinema to Abingdon’s Guildhall have been revived – but only until the building becomes part of a new ‘community hub’.

Sue Wiper, who runs The Regal in Evesham with her husband Ian, has written to the town council, which own the building, asking them to consider leasing them the Guildhall’s 1960s extension, the Abbey Hall.

Mrs Wiper wrote: “Our plan for the Guildhall is to invest in state of the art projection and audio-visual equipment and a big retractable screen which we would remove at the end of our tenancy. We would also invest and install, at our expense, luxury seating.”

The plans could prove the solution to mounting pressure over the continued closure of the Abbey Hall, which has lain empty since 2015.

Concerned residents created the Save our Guildhall petition in September, which now has more than 1,800 signatures, and almost 200 people turned up for a public meeting earlier this month about the ‘urgent need’ to reopen the space.

If approved, the cinema plan would bridge the gap until proposals announced last week to create a ‘community hub’ around the building, which could see the town’s library move into the Abbey Hall, come to fruition

Oxfordshire County Council, which runs the library, and Abingdon Town Council unveiled an agreement to work more closely to join up public services within the town.

As well as the Charter-based library, other county managed services such as the town’s children’s centre could also be on the move as part of a bid to make the ‘best use’ of publicly owned buildings.

One group already following this example are The Friends of Abingdon, who have been working with the Regal to screen films in the Unicorn Theatre in Checker Walk this winter.

Determined to provide the town with a place to watch the latest movies, the civic society got in touch with the independent cinema about how to use the historic Abbey Building’s theatre for screenings.

This has proved so popular Mr and Mrs Wiper want to expand.

Mr Wiper said they could have the Abbey Hall cinema up and running within six weeks of approval and added, realistically, to make the plan viable the cinema would have to remain open past December 2018.

Original proposals for the Abbey Hall extension of the Guildhall were rejected by the town council in January when it was decided the scheme was financially unviable.

The £3.5m scheme was first proposed in 2013, with a 200-seat cinema set to form the anchor of a redevelopment of the hall, which would have also created a new cafe-bar and saw the building refurbished.

At a full town council meeting on Wednesday councillors agreed to set up a working group to explore The Regal plan.